Our Not-So-Crunchy Valentines

Crunchy Parent Valentines

So here’s the deal. I wasn’t going to post about making the kids’ classroom valentines this year. The reason, if I’m being completely honest is because they aren’t really crunchy. They’re crafty, but they involve plastic and are devoid of wool or watercolors. They are anything but natural. I feel mildly guilty about this and I wasn’t entirely proud of sharing that bit here, where the focus is the crunchiness of my parenting. The omission nagged at me though, and I felt like I was being disingenuous. I don’t want to project an image of myself that is fake, holier-than-thou, or unattainable. Of course, I don’t Periscope when I’m at my wit’s end and losing it here in the Crunchy Casa, but I can be honest about the valentines at the very least.

Remember back when I said that family life and needs and resources are always changing and sometimes choices that I make or things that I do may seem uber-crunchy, and sometimes they may seem crunchy-light? Well, valentines this year were crunchy-light at best.

I have reasons for this. I have learned that I have limits, and that I am best served by acknowledging and respecting them. I have also spent some time recently reflecting on my own memories from childhood; the moments that felt the best and the experiences that I most strive to replicate with my kids. What I’ve come to realize is that the specific events and outcomes were not important, it was the feeling of joy and fun and care that I associated with each memory. Doing something that felt special was awesome; being pushed too hard to adhere to a specific imposed standard was not. In approaching Valentine’s Day this year I was striving for the former.

Valentine’s Day is being celebrated in the kids’ classrooms tomorrow since the holiday falls over the weekend this year. I knew that I would be flying solo all week because Rich had to be out of town for work. I steel myself for his work travel. My admiration and empathy for single parents and military families grows with every trip. I knew that adding extensive craft projects to the week would be too much for me to take on if I hoped to remain a pleasant person. I wanted the valentines to be mostly done before he left town on the Monday morning red eye.

I suppose that I could have moved the valentine deadline up and still craft something masterful, but last weekend we were celebrating Chinese New Year with a family hot pot meal, we had a special occasion to attend for family friends, and then there was the Superbowl. We also have a big cancer charity event next week and I’m working on planning Eva’s birthday in two weeks. I wanted each event to be a fun experience without homemade valentines feeling like an obligation hanging over our heads. My goal was for the valentines to be fun and manageable. I hoped that the kids would be excited about making them, and that the valentines would reflect each individual child and who they are right now.

I talked with the kids to get an idea about what was important to them. Asher super did not care. Alina is at a school where for the very first time she is allowed to give out candy with her valentines, and her Priority #1 was to give out a valentine that had candy attached to it. Eva wasn’t sure what the kids might be doing for valentines, but she wanted to give out something that was “a thing” and not just a paper card. With these guidelines, I turned to Pinterest. The girls and I looked over the scads of pins together. I took the liberty of finding an idea for Asher that I thought that he would like. He loves space so I took a space-themed valentine and riffed on the idea a bit.

Asher's space valentines

Asher’s space valentines

Alina’s teacher (bless her) had requested that the students make personal valentines for their peers; having every child write at least two lines of genuine compliments for every other child in the class. I knew that I wanted Alina to focus her time on this aspect of the valentines, so I steered her away from anything too time-consuming in the crafty department. Alina also tends to think big and then get overwhelmed by the reality of her vision, which is a meltdown in the making. In the end, she settled on letting me do a photo valentine of her. Her favorite part about it (beside the candy of course) is that she was still wearing her pajama bottoms when we took the picture. I bet in 10 years she’ll look back at those valentines and laugh about wearing her pajama bottoms, which is much better than seeing them and rehashing a bitter memory of her mom nagging her for a week to finish gluing on doilies or sign her name on every card.

Eva’s class has a lot of students who benefit from fidgets to occupy their busy hands. We decided on a “slime” valentine that the kids could squish and play with at school or at home. As I write this, all three of my kids are playing “bakery” with the extra slime at the kitchen table. If their enthusiasm is any indication, I have a feeling that this valentine will be a hit with the kids at school.

Eva's valentines complete with pink glitter slime

Eva’s valentines complete with pink glitter slime

Just in case you are in a last-minute panic and searching for something for your kids, I’m including the links and resources that I used here.

For Asher’s space-themed valentine, I used this great idea. The astronauts mentioned in that link were no longer available through Amazon so I ordered cute glow-in-the-dark aliens instead. I also used a red Sharpie to draw on hearts because that seemed faster and easier than painting them on as mentioned in the original tutorial. I printed the template out onto card stock and then glued some silver glitter around the moon. All design, color, and embellishment choices were made by Asher. I might have made some different ones, but he had a clear vision of what space should look like, so who was I to impose my ideas? Asher eagerly wrote his name on the back of each valentine. He has been talking about the party at school all week.

For Alina’s lollipop photo valentine, I searched for “lollipop valentine” on Pinterest and found a bunch for inspiration. I snapped a few quick pictures of Alina striking a pose against a plain wall in the house.

Raw photo for valentine

Raw photo for valentine

After selecting the one best-suited for the project, I  used the free photo editing software at Picmonkey to create the card. I’ve been using Picmonkey for a while so I knew my way around, but the site is fairly straightforward and they have a lot of video tutorials to help you achieve the look that you want.

Valentine after Picmonkey magic.

Valentine after Picmonkey magic.

Alina gave her opinion about the colors and design and came up with what she wanted the card to say. I then had the pictures printed up at the Walgreen’s one-hour photo (I used code FORTYOFF40 for 40% off and went through ebates for another 4% back). In an hour I had her photo cards for under $8.00. We planned to attach the Yummy Earth organic lollipops, but the wrappers were so large that they covered up her face. I had a bag of mini tootsie pops leftover from Halloween and they were a perfect size. Mind you, Alina can’t eat them due to her food sensitivities, but she isn’t giving a valentine to herself, so we’re okay there. We printed out Alina’s personal messages and taped them to the back of each photo.

When I went to pick up Alina’s pictures at Walgreen’s, I saw the exact heart-shaped containers that I had been looking for to use with Eva’s slime valentines. Walgreen’s had the containers on clearance. Each set of eight cost me 50 cents. I had all of the other supplies on-hand to make the slime and as mentioned, the kids have been having a blast playing with the excess all week. I printed out the little message on card stock and traced around it with a heart-shaped template that I created to match the back of the containers. I taped them on to the back of the containers with a little loop of tape.

IMG_5209

I have a few aliens left to tie onto cards tonight, and I’ll also be making some killer gluten-free, dairy-free brownies for the kids to have at school during their parties tomorrow. I’m not stressed though. I won’t be up until 3:00a.m. trying to embroider heart sachets or needle felt valentine gnomes. In all it is much less crunchy than prior years have been, but I’m okay with that. Making crunchier choices most of the time lets me consciously choose to be un-crunchy on occasion.

Crunchier valentines of yore: wet on wet watercolor with a resist.

Crunchier valentines of yore: wet on wet watercolor with a resist.

I try to remind myself that this parenting thing is a marathon and not a sprint. When the kids reflect back to their childhood memories, they may only remember the year that we made beautiful wet-on-wet watercolor valentines using a resist technique, or they may have forgotten everything except the time that we took PJ-pics and played with slime. I just hope that the memories that stick with them the most are happy ones.

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Beauty Heroes Luxury Green Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review: February 2016

Crunchy Parent Beauty Heroes February 2016 Unboxing & Review

Beauty Heroes is a luxe green beauty subscription service. The Beauty Heroes mission is to provide their customers with products from the very best non-toxic, clean, green beauty brands. Each month Beauty Heroes sends one full size luxury product, sometimes with a smaller bonus item (because every superhero loves a good sidekick). Products are chosen to fit with the season, and are screened to avoid an impressive laundry list of villain ingredients such as parabens, mineral oil, and triclosan; and to include natural superpower ingredients to nurture your skin such as turmeric, reishi mushroom, and sea buckthorn. Beginning with this month’s box, Beauty Heroes will be featuring the best in luxe green beauty cosmetic items in addition to their previous concentration on non-toxic skincare, hair, and body care items. This box is available for purchase through February 20th and while supplies last.

Beauty Heroes boxes cost $39.00/month (shipping included) and are less with multi-month subscriptions. In addition, all Beauty Heroes members receive 15% off of any purchase from the Beauty Heroes online clean beauty shop.

I purchased this box and was not compensated in any way for this review, although review may contain affiliate links. This simply means that if you join Beauty Heroes through my links, I may receive a small compensation, which allows be to put more dollars back into the blog. All opinions are my own. To see my other Beauty Heroes unboxings and reviews, look here.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The box came with a big, bright “Beauty Heroes” label. I opened it to find pink tissue nveloping this month’s products as well as a sparkly pink Beauty Heroes mask. Beauty Heroes also sent a detailed enclosure reviewing the brand and products highlighted (more on that in a moment), as well a handy pocket guide listing both villain and superpower ingredients to notice in cosmetic, skincare, and beauty products.

This month’s expert selection comes from the brand Beautycounter. Beautycounter is on a mission to make safer products for healthier people. Motivated by the discovery that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer, Beautycounter strives to reduce individual toxin exposure through safer skincare and cosmetics (and as one woman who has received a cancer diagnosis, I am certainly grateful for their efforts). Beautycounter maintains a list of over 1500 ingredients that they will not allow in their products. Focused on using organic and plant-based ingredients in combination with safer synthetic ingredients, Beautycounter has created a range of luxurious green beauty products that you can feel good about using.

Beauty Heroes February 2016 Beautycounter body oil

Beauty Heroes made good on their promise to add green cosmetic items to their boxes in 2016. In addition to the decadent Superhero product they added a sidekick with some colorful flair.

This month’s box was awash in pink, reminding me that February is all about love and tenderness. The box contained a beautiful full-size glass bottle of Beautycounter’s Rose Neroli Body Oil (2.7 oz., value $73.00). The formulation is a lightweight blend of nourishing oils including marula, argan, meadowfoam, rosehip, and grapeseed oils. Bitter orange flowers and rose otto lend a delicate floral scent that sets the perfect tone for February.

Beauty Heroes Beautycounter lip sheer

Beauty Heroes must have known that once my skin was was all hydrated and I was smelling softly of flowers, I would want a kiss of color on my lips. Like a good superhero, Beautycounter’s Lip Sheer came to the rescue. Outfitted in a beautiful golden case, the full-sized lip sheer in the Petal shade lends the lightest blush of soft pink to the lips (value $30.00). The hydrating lippie is scented with real vanilla and has a rating of 1 (low hazard) on the EWG Skin Deep Database. I am especially particular about green lip products, as these are the most frequently ingested simply by their use on the lips.

Beauty Heroes February 2016 unboxing & review

I must admit that as a green skincare enthusiast, I was a bit concerned what I heard that Beauty Heroes was going to be changing up their subscription to include cosmetic items. I loved that this month’s Superhero product was a luxurious item to pamper my skin from top to toe and I still received a flattering non-toxic cosmetic item in addition. The Beautycounter products feel and smell luxurious and are packaged beautifully. Using them feels special.

This month’s perfectly-pink box had a total value of $103.00. I continue to be delighted by the service that Beauty Heroes offers; allowing me to experience luxurious green beauty items every day at a substantially reduced price. As a full-time, at-home mom it is a special teat to be able to take time to care for myself. Using decadent products on my skin and face that smell, feel, and look beautiful take routine self-care to a level that feels like pampering. That can go a long way not just for my outside appearance, but for my psyche as well.

Once again, if you are interested in this month’s box it is still available for purchase through February 20th as long as supplies last. Subscription purchases made after February 20th will begin with the March box.

What do you think about Beauty Heroes’ first box featuring cosmetics?

If you would like to see my most recent listing of “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to Crunchy Parent and the Crunchy Parent YouTube channel!

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Barganic Alert: Goodbeing Limited Edition box + 2 month subscription bonus!

Goodbeing Share the Lov ltd. ed. box + bonus

If there was ever a time to act fast, this is it. Today only, Goodbeing (formerly Goodebox) is offering an amazing bonus along with the purchase of their limited edition “Share the Love” box ($95 for $255 in luxury green beauty products).

All customers who purchase the limited edition box will also receive a two month gift membership of the Goodbeing subscription box. They can send the membership to someone else, or keep it for themselves. For more details about what to expect from a Goodbeing subscription box, see my Ultimate List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes (look under their former name, Goodebox).

The limited edition box features products from Osmia Organics, One Love Organics, Lilikoi Living, AILA Cosmetics, LOQI, and jewelry from Me to We. See link for complete product details and to purchase.

There is no coupon necessary to take advantage of this bonus offer, but it is only valid today until 3pm PST, so don’t delay.

**Barganic Alerts are an effort to spread awareness about affordable crunchy goods and services (and here’s why). They are not endorsements. They tend to be time-limited, and often go quickly. To make sure that you are always in the know, subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to receive emails of all Barganic Alerts as soon as they are posted** or follow me on Twitter Twitter or my Pinterest Barganic Alert board.

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Vegan Cuts Vegan Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review: January 2016

Crunchy Parent Vegan Cuts Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review January 2016

The Vegan Cuts Beauty Box is a monthly subscription service that sends 4-7 vegan, cruelty-free cosmetic and skincare items in each box. Products are a mix of full and sample sizes. Items are paraben free and are often organic and natural.

Boxes cost $19.95 per month, which includes U. S. shipping. There are discounts for multi-month subscriptions. I purchased this box and was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are my own.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing my January 2016 Vegan Cuts box, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

Each month, Vegan Cuts includes an information card that provides photos, a brief description, and valuing information for all items in the box. The card also included the code JANBEAUTY for $10 off any purchase of $50 or more at Vegan Cuts Beauty Shop. I think that Vegan Cuts (and their sister subscription company Goddess Provisions) have some of the best looking information cards out there.

Vegan Cuts Beauty Subscription unboxing & review Jojoba Company & Aubrey Organics

The first item that I saw this month was a deluxe sample-sized pump bottle of Aubrey Organics Revitalizing Therapy Moisturizer (1 oz., value $13.00). The formulation is designed to nourish dry skin and target fine lines and wrinkles. I think that anything made for dry skin is perfect for the winter months around here. The moisturizer includes a host of nourishing herbal ingredients including aloe juice, rosehip seed oil, kelp, arnica, elderflower, and hops. I found that the moisturizer was rich but absorbed into my skin within a minute or so. It had a fairly strong scent that reminded me of almonds, but it dissipated quickly. I think that it would work well for me for daytime. For less dry complexions this might work well for nighttime.

The next items in the box were a pair of products from The Jojoba Company: a sample tube of their Gentle Cleansing Balm, and a small vial of their 100% Natural Ultimate Jojoba Youth Potion (total value: $6.00). The Jojoba Company is new to me, and I was happy to be introduced to this Australian company and their beautiful natural products.

The Gentle Cleansing Balm is a non-foaming cleanser designed for sensitive and dry skin. It is bursting with jojoba and other plant-based ingredients to hydrate and nourish. In addition it contains Alpha Hydroxy Acids from papaya and melon to brighten the skin.

The Youth Potion is a beautiful blend of oils including jojoba, argan, boabab, meadow foam seed, and more. It has an absolutely gorgeous delicate floral scent that I suspect is from the linden blossom oil in the ingredients list. The potion is designed to be used like a face oil, in conjunction with or in place of a serum, and followed by a moisturizer. It went on like silk and was light and quickly absorbed. I was really quite captivated by it.

Vegan Cuts Beauty unboxing January 2016 Earthlabs Vegan Mascara, Wabi-Sabi Botanicals cleansing grains, Lashea body scrub

My next discovery was a 1 oz. glass jar of Sagga Charcoal and Rose Cleansing Grains from Wabi-Sabi Botanicals (value $8.00). The versatile powder cleanser is designed for acne-prone skin. It can be mixed with water or other base and used to gently cleanse and exfoliate the skin. It can also be left to dry on the skin as a facial mask and then gently rinsed. The charcoal and clay will help to absorb oils and toxins, while the gluten-free oats and rose petals will soothe and brighten. I was expecting a gray product due to the inclusion of charcoal, but the powder is oatmeal-colored and mildly scented. I love powder facial care products because they tend to have greater shelf-stability and they allow for customization through the use of different bases such as honey, water, floral hydrofoils, or yogurt. I know that I will get a lot of use out of this one, and may encourage Eva to give it a try on her adolescent skin as well.

I couldn’t get over the cuteness of the wee sample jar of Lashea Butter Whips Essential Body Scrub (value $1.50). The creamy body scrub blends sugar and soy seeds along with a host of moisturizing butters and oils to gently exfoliate and enrich the skin. Although Lashea does not specify which essential oils are contained in there blend that scents the product, it had a a fresh citrus scent. I think the rich texture and the bright citrus fragrance would make this a great winter pick-me-up for the skin.

The final item in the box was Vegan Lash Mascara by Earthlab Cosmetics (full size, value $25.00). Like many other natural mascaras that I have tried, this aloe-based formulation is not heavy and can be layered to give the lashes a more dramatically-enhanced look, or used conservatively for a more natural effect.

Vegan Cots Beauty Box review January 2016 Crunchy Parent non-toxic

I was impressed with this box by Vegan Cuts. I liked that the curation seemed to be focused around a multi-step skincare regimen with the addition of a cosmetic and a body care product as well. I though that the overall emphasis on hydration and moisturizing was seasonally-appropriate, but I also appreciated that Vegan Cuts included products that could work for other skin types as well. I can see myself using the Wabi-Sabi Botanicals product as an occasional detoxifying face mask on my dryer skin, whereas Eva may use it more regularly as a balancing cleanser on her more temperamental adolescent skin. The value of this month’s box is $53.50, which I think is really fantastic for the $19.95 box price, especially given that the products are all vegan and natural as well.

If you are curious to learn about the February Vegan Cuts box, they have released a sneak-peek video that reveals two fantastic spoiler items. Among other items, the box will include 100% Pure Eye Creamsticks in one of two color combinations (value $18.00), and The Wonder Seed Facial Cream (value $16.95). The first 500 new subscribers will also receive a bonus bottle of this daring purple Raga Varnish polish (value $12.50).

If you would like to see the most recent Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos or reviews, please let me know in the comments.

To keep up with all the Crunchy Parent happenings, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel or follow me on Pinterest and Twitter.

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100% Natural Does Not Mean 100% Safe: A Cautionary Tale

I love natural, green beauty products. I have dabbled in crafting lotions and potions, and have explored products from hundreds of natural beauty brands for decades. Needless to say, seeing words like, “100% natural,” “organic,” and “no artificial ingredients” on products excites me. On occasion, I need to remind myself that while such terms suggest that a product might be gentler and more natural than a conventional counterpart, they are not guarantees that the product is beneficial, effective, healthy, or even safe.

Yesterday I was lamenting my sore back due to some new exercises that I’ve been doing at the gym. I decided that a nice hot bath would be a great way to soothe my aching muscles. I ran the water into the tub and went exploring my shelves for the perfect bath product to enhance my soak. Initially I was thinking that a bath salt might be nice, but then I spied an unopened bottle of a liquid bath soak. I had received it before we had moved into the house (i.e., before we had a bath tub) and thus it had languished in a box of bath goodies, neglected until now.

The bottle had the words “100% natural” and “vegan” splashed across the label, and the ingredients were simple; a naturally fermented liquid base, high grade essential oil, and some natural preservative. The label explained that it was normal for the product to separate in the bottle since it contained no emulsifiers, and the essential oil and the “water” base do not mix. I followed the instructions to shake the bottle to mix well, and to add a tablespoon to the bath. The label also indicated that the product ingredients would relax my muscles and ease tension in addition to uplifting my spirit (perfect!). I was struck by the beautiful vibrant color of the liquid as I poured the directed amount into the bath.

After I finished running the water, I eased myself into the tub, preparing to be uplifted and soothed. The bath smelled beautiful; fresh and citrusy. The water felt warm though, too warm, hot really. I turned on the cool water to adjust the temperature. Something was really hurting on my side. I looked at my left side along my ribcage. I didn’t see anything, just the faint lines from the workout top that I had been wearing moments earlier. It really hurt though. It was distracting. I was not relaxing, I was in pain. I looked again. There appeared to be two very faint scratches on my side, probably made by the tag from my top when I took it off. As I watched, the lines grew redder and angrier. Now the underside of my legs were burning. Really burning. Something was wrong. I looked around the tub and there was a vibrant colorful ring all along the edges at the water line.

My brain clicked, and I immediately stood up and started draining the tub. I grabbed a bath pouffy and some soap and began washing off my skin. This did little to stop the burning sensation that had now consumed my side, back, and legs. I spied a sponge and some tub cleanser, grateful that I use chemical-free cleaning products as I stood cold, wet, and naked in the tub spraying and scrubbing the colorful stripe off the bathtub all around me. The tub had drained now and I used the handheld sprayer to rinse off every inch. I began to refill the tub with fresh water, but my skin was still burning. I knew that I needed oil, but I didn’t have any within arm’s reach. I went for the next best thing; a jar of body scrub made with a host of nut and plant oils. Fortunately, it too separates into layers, so I poured some of the top layer of oil off into my palm, taking care to avoid any of the scrubbing grains which would have likely decimated my tender, burning skin. I started rubbing the oils onto my skin. The burning began to subside. I sat back down into the fresh water, digesting what had just happened.

I wondered if this was a fluke. As is probably natural, I assumed that with a mass-marketed product made by a well-respected company the problem must have been due to user error on my part. They couldn’t possibly be selling a product that was unsafe, right? Especially not one labeled as 100% natural. It was not an inexpensive product either; costing over $25.00 for the small bottle. I must not have shaken it up enough. Maybe I used more than a tablespoon (although I do not think that I did). It had to be me. The problem had to be with me.

When I got out of the tub and dried off, I decided to do a little sleuthing. Some quick online searches led me to the answers. I was able to find product ratings and reviews on two sites; the brand’s own website and Amazon. In total there were over a dozen reviews. Approximately 95% of these reviews were one star and contained words like, “warning,” “worst experience,” “burns like crazy,” “horrible burning sensation,” “hurt for hours,” and “severe prickly burning.” I felt reassured that this was not user error. More importantly, I was pleased to see that the product has recently been discontinued.

In hindsight, I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t know better. The product was attractive due to its simple ingredients, but they were too simple. Something very important was missing. There was no carrier oil in the product to dilute the high percentage of essential oil. Even though the bottle instructed me to shake the product to combine the essential oil with the fluid, this does not dilute the essential oil because the essential oil and “water” never really mix; the essential oil just breaks down into smaller, undiluted droplets. These droplets then drift back together over time, where they can settle onto the skin in these concentrated amounts (and make really vibrant rings around the tub). This is why carrier oils are always needed to dilute the strength and intensity of essential oils before they come in contact with your skin. You can read more about the phenomenon in this article.

When I looked at the bottle (which had once again separated out into two distinct layers,) I could see that the formulation contained a ratio of about one part essential oil to six parts of fluid. I did some quick math to determine that the tablespoon of product had added about a half teaspoon, or approximately 50 drops of undiluted essential oil to my bath. It is no wonder that my skin felt like it was on fire and the superficial abrasion on my skin had quickly become inflamed. In truth, this product really was unsafe as formulated, despite being all-natural, vegan, cruelty-free and from a reputable company.

I have chosen not to name the specific product or company because the product has been discontinued and is no longer on shelves. I have used many other wonderful products from this brand without incident. This was clearly a misstep and a shining example of why natural does not always mean gentle, healthy, or safe. It is still the responsibility of the consumer to determine what is natural, healthy, and safe for them. It is always best to educate one’s self about product ingredients and to read labels. When in doubt, a quick Google search before jumping in the tub might help to prevent a very unpleasant experience.

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La Ritzy Vegan Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review: January 2016

Cunchy Parent La Ritzy Vegan Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review January 2016

La Ritzy is a monthly beauty subscription service that sends 4-5 vegan, cruelty-free cosmetic and skincare items in each box. Although not specifically marketed as a green beauty box, the brands that La Ritzy sends have tended to be non-toxic, natural brands.

Boxes cost $24.99 per month, which includes U. S. shipping. There are discounts for multi-month subscriptions. I purchased this box and was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are my own. You can see my other La Ritzy reviews here.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing my January 2016 La Ritzy box, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

La Ritzy included an information card that provided a brief description and valuing information for all items in the box.

Crunchy Parent review La Ritzy Vegan Beauty Subscription-January 2016 Mai Couture highlighting papier papers Zoe Organics cream

The first item that I went for was a beautiful book of Highlighter Papier from Mai Couture (full size, value $28.00). The highlighting papers are available in two shades. I received Crystal Cove, the lighter of the two. I am not sure if this was the same for all subscribers or if there was variation among boxes. The highlighting papers are easy to tear out and use as needed to give a fresh glow to the skin. I liked the brightening effect of the powder. As shown in the video, a little goes a long way. I imagine that I would use each sheet for several applications, tucking it back in the book between uses.

The next item in the box was one that I was delighted to see, a full size jar of Zoe Organics Cream (2oz., value $18.00). I had looked at some of the Zoe Organic product line at A Night for Green Beauty this past summer. The indie line focuses on natural, plant-based products to nurture families through pregnancy, new mommy-hood, and for babies. The line includes a handful of products with broad appeal for the whole family, with their cream being among them. The rich shea butter-based cream blends nourishing oils and herbs, using rosemary extract as a natural preservative. All of the ingredients in the cream are 100% organic. I was surprised by the richness of the cream. Designed for use with eczema, I think that this cream will be a perfect answer to wind-kissed cheeks and chapped hands this winter.

La Ritzy vegan subscription box unboxing & review January 2016 GlamNatural Otavea

For the third month running, La Ritzy featured a product from GlamNatural. They sent a full size tube of GlamNatural’s Lip Cream in “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (value $20.00). Although I generally like to explore new brands through subscription boxes, I appreciate that the GlamNatural products (face powder, mascara, and lip color) have all been so different. I think that lip products are particularly important to use in healthy, green versions since they live on your lips and inevitably get ingested to some degree. Thus, I am always on the lookout for great, green lip products. The GlamNaturals formula blends shea butter with plant-derived oils and waxes along with mineral pigments. I liked that the creamy color went on easily, and had some subtle shine and sparkle. I found that the shade was less bold on my lips than in the tube and was a very wearable berry.

The last item revealed was a product exclusive to La Ritzy subscribers. Otavea sent a deluxe sample size jar of their new Lemon formula sugar scrub (value $6.00). I was not familiar with the Otavea product line and from the information provided by La Ritzy and on the product packaging I was unsure if the scrub was intended for face or body. In my experience, face scrubs require smaller, more delicate granules than body scrubs to avoid harming delicate facial skin. When I looked on the Otavea website, they refer to all of their products as body scrubs but picture a woman with the scrub on her face, so I’m still a bit confused. I think that it would be best to err on the side of caution and reserve this scrub for use on body, hands, and feet.

La Ritzy January 2016 box

I liked this box from La Ritzy. I really appreciate that they are not only featuring great vegan products, but are also taking care to send non-toxic, green skincare and cosmetic items. The value of this month’s box is $72.00, which I think is really fantastic for the $24.99 box price. Three of the four items included were full-sized products, with the fourth being a deluxe sample. I think that La Ritzy is a strong option for people looking for cruelty-free, vegan products that tend to be organic and green as well.

If you would like to see the most recent Crunchy Parent List of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos or reviews, please let me know in the comments.

To keep up with all the Crunchy Parent happenings, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel or follow me on Pinterest and Twitter.

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Just Darling Skincare for Teens & Tweens by Darling Naturals

Crunchy Parent review Darling Naturals Just Darling Tween & Teen Non-toxic green Skincare

My natural, non-toxic “ah-ha” moment came as soon as I saw the second line show up on my home pregnancy test. All of a sudden my choices were no longer just having an impact on me; they were influencing the precious being that I was taking responsibility for bringing into the world. This epiphany shifted the way that I ate, what I put on my skin, hair, and nails, how I cleaned my home, and so much more. In the beginning, I had a harder time finding the right products to support this new approach to health. I suspect this was due in part to me not knowing where to look and in part to fewer healthy options being available 13+ years ago than there are now.

Fortunately, I was not the only person to connect the preciousness of babyhood to an enhanced desire to avoid toxins. By the time that Eva was born in 2003, I had discovered some brands and products that I felt good about using on her skin. A handful of soaps and creams, an all-purpose hair and body wash; they got the job done.

As Eva moved through her tween years, I began to see a shift. Her skin and hair were changing. She was more conscious about the clarity of her skin. She was noticing the types of products that I used on my face, and was wanting to emulate some of my skincare routine. I let her peruse my stash of cleansing and skincare products (thanks in large part to my subscription box habit, I have a lot to explore). Unfortunately these forays into my stash yielded few attractive options; my products were not a great fit for her tween/teen skin type, and the packaging often failed to intrigue or compel her.

As a result of these experiences, I am always on the lookout for natural brands and products that target older children and teens. Surprisingly, this product niche has lagged significantly behind natural personal care products marketed for women, babies, and even for men. It can be downright difficult to find natural skincare lines for teens and tweens. If you haven’t yet raised a tween or teen, I can offer this bit of insight; hygiene is often not their greatest strength. Having products that they want to use and that are effective can not only help build good personal habits, but can be a blessing for the whole family.

You can only imagine how pleased I was when I was contacted by Darling Naturals and invited to have Eva (almost 13) and Alina (9 1/2) review their Just Darling Pretty Clear Skin Regimen. The Just Darling line is designed for children ages 10-15 years to serve as an introduction to multi-step skincare regimens and overall good hygiene. The products use many plant-based and organic ingredients and are free from GMOs, petro-chemicals, artificial perfumes and dyes, and parabens. They are also vegan and cruelty free.

Darling Naturals Tween & Teen Girls Pretty Clear Skin Set Review-Crunchy Parent

The products arrived boxed into a kit with three bottles and a palm-sized natural sponge. Each bottle was clearly labeled and numbered to indicate where it should be used in the skincare sequence. I spent a few moments with the girls, explaining how they should use the products. They’ve had years of face-washing experience, but toner and moisturizer were less familiar. I also provided the girls with a stack of organic cotton rounds to use with the toner, and then set the products in their bathroom for them to use at their leisure.

I checked in with the girls periodically over the next week to ask their thoughts about the products.

Consistency of the face wash, toner, & gel moisturizer

Consistency of the face wash, toner, & gel moisturizer

Step 1: Face Wash for Problem Skin (4 oz., $12.95)

Ingredients: Organic aloe vera juice, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium laurel lactylate, kosher vegetable glycerine, calendula distillate, tea tree oil, pink grapefruit oil, black willow bark extract, plantain extract, ethylhexyl-glycerine, phenoxyethanol.

Both girls said that they found the scent of the lightly-foaming, gel face wash to be strong and somewhat medicinal. This makes sense when you consider that it uses ingredients like tea tree and pink grapefruit oil to balance skin and control excess oils. Tea tree oil in particular can have a pronounced and sharp scent. Despite noting this feature, the girls did not find it to be a big deterrent to using the face wash. I however was a bit concerned that the tea tree oil might be too harsh on the girls’ skin. Fortunately the product also includes a host of soothing herbal ingredients such as calendula, plantain, and aloe, which I hoped would provide balance to the formula.

Eva has particularly has sensitive skin and sometimes has reactions to products. She said that with her first use of the face wash, she felt that it burned a bit on her skin. She added that in hindsight she thought that she used too much product at first. She said that on subsequent occasions, she used less product and did not find it irritating to her skin at all; rather it had a mild cooling sensation that faded after a short while.

Both girls were a bit wary of the natural sponge at first and unsure about how to use it. I showed them how a bit of water transformed the mound of crunchy swiss-cheese into a silky soft sponge. Eva continued to prefer using her hands, but Alina delighted in the softness of the sponge and the way that it helped the face wash to lather on her face. The first several nights of using the products, Alina flitted about the house, marveling at her soft skin and inviting us to stroke her cheek.

Step 2: Toner for Problem Skin (4 oz., $10.95)

Ingredients: Organic aloe vera juice, tea tree oil, green tea extract, kosher vegetable glycerine, calendula flower extract, black willow bark extract, polysorbate 80, pink grapefruit oil, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexyglycerin.

I was curious to hear the girls’ thoughts about the toner, and was pleased to discover that the didn’t find it harsh as toners can often be. Unlike most conventional toners, the Just Darling product does not contain any alcohol or witch hazel, which can be irritating to sensitive skin. The toner is an aloe-vera juice base enhanced with plant ingredients such as tea tree oil, calendula flowers, black willow bark, green tea, and pink grapefruit oil. The fragrance is of moderate intensity, but did not seem to stand out to the girls. I think that Eva and Alina both found this new-to-them toner step to be a novel addition to their skincare routine.

Step 3: Moisturizer for Problem Skin (2 oz., $12.95)

Ingredients: Organic aloe vera juice, kosher vegetable glycerine, calendula flower infusion, carbomer, triethanolamine, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexyglycerin

Interestingly, both girls commented that they really liked the smell of the light gel-moisturizer. Reviewing the ingredients, I am not sure what gives the moisturizer it’s scent, but it has a zippy, lime-like, citrus fragrance. The girls agreed that the light moisturizer felt just-right on their skin and was perfect for the dry winter months.

Darling Naturals Just Darling organic, vegan, gluten free skincare for teen & tween girls

Overall Impressions:

I asked the girls for their reviews after a week of using the 3-step Pretty Clear Skin Regimen from Just Darling. Eva said that she didn’t love her first experience with the face wash because she had a difficult time getting the product to create a lather on her face using the dime-size amount on her fingertips as instructed. This led to her using an excessive amount of product which she said made her skin burn. With subsequent applications using less product, Eva said that she liked the face wash despite the strong smell. She indicated that she had a red blemish on her face at the start of the week, and she thought that it faded over time with use of the products. She stated that she very much liked the ritual of the three steps, especially before bedtime; adding that the ritual felt like a nice way to wind down before bed. She said that she felt like she was, “pampering her skin like being at a relaxing spa.”

Alina independently shared that she too liked the multiple steps of the regimen. She very honestly reported that she generally does not like having to wash her face. She felt like the three step ritual elevated the experience, making her feel more, “responsible and important.” As mentioned, she took a great deal of pride and delight in how soft her skin felt when using the products.

Although some of the multi-syllable ingredients rated in the moderate range on EWG’s Skin-Deep Database, I was pleased with the products all being organic aloe gel-based, and they were well tolerated by the girls’ skin. I was thrilled that the girls found the product packaging, texture, and fragrance to be attractive enough to keep using again and again without prompting all throughout the week. Unprompted personal hygiene is not a common thing around here. I know that they will continue to use the products, and I think that they especially like having products that are made just for them. I think that the natural sponge in the kit that we received was a nice option, but not necessary to enjoy and use the products. In Eva’s case she preferred to use her clean hands versus the sponge when working with the face wash. Alina enjoyed using the sponge, so I suppose that it would depend on the preference of the child.

As much as we appreciate that Darling Naturals has developed a line of natural products just for tweens and teens, they also have a Darling Baby line and a Darling Mommy line for new babies and expectant and new mommies. For the time being, I think we’ll continue to focus on the tween and teen needs. I have my eye on the Good Hair Day Detangling Spray. Maybe it will be the answer for Alina’s long, tangle-prone locks.

What do you think about the Darling Naturals line for tweens and teens? Do you have any secrets for keeping older children clean and smelling fresh?

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Beauty Heroes Luxury Green Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review: January 2016

Crunchy Parent Beauty Heroes Luxe Green Beauty Subscription Unboxing & Review January 2016

Beauty Heroes is a luxe green beauty subscription service. The Beauty Heroes mission is to provide their customers with products from the very best non-toxic, clean, green beauty brands. Each month Beauty Heroes sends one full size luxury product, sometimes with a smaller bonus item (because every superhero loves a good sidekick). Products are chosen to fit with the season, and are screened to avoid an impressive laundry list of villain ingredients such as parabens, mineral oil, and triclosan; and to include natural superpower ingredients to nurture your skin such as turmeric, reishi mushroom, and sea buckthorn.

Beauty Heroes boxes cost $39.00/month (shipping included) and are less with multi-month subscriptions. In addition, all Beauty Heroes members receive 15% off of any purchase from the Beauty Heroes online clean beauty shop.

I purchased this box and was not compensated in any way for this review, although review may contain affiliate links. This simply means that if you join Beauty Heroes through my links, I may receive a small compensation, which allows be to put more dollars back into the blog. All opinions are my own. To see my other Beauty Heroes unboxings and reviews, look here.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

The box came with a big, bright “Beauty Heroes” label. I opened it to find an enclosure reviewing the brand and products highlighted (more on that in a moment), as well a handy pocket guide listing both villain and superpower ingredients to notice in cosmetic, skincare, and beauty products.

This month’s expert selection comes from the brand Osmia Organics. I had the opportunity to talk a bit with the Osmia Organics founder, Dr. Sarah Villafranco at A Night for Green Beauty this past summer. A former ER physician with a passion for healthy skincare, Sarah began making soap before expanding her formulations and her company to include skincare and natural perfumes. Osmia Organics, whose name references the ability to detect scent, places great importance on the quality and function of the ingredients in their products. As mentioned in the video, Sarah’s article about emulsifiers and their environmental impact left a lasting impression; giving me a better appreciation for body oils and healthier emulsifying agents.

Beauty Heroes surprised and delighted me by sending a box packed full of goodies this month. As with the November box, Beauty Heroes sent a pair of Superhero products (which always makes me think of the Wonder Twins because I’m over 40 and these are my reference points for such things). In addition, Beauty Heroes tucked in a helpful sidekick product, and a great accessory item a la Wonder Woman’s invisible jet.

Beauty Heroes January 2016-Osmia Organics face cream

This month’s box contained a full-size bottle of Osmia Organic’s Purely Simple Face Cream (1.7 oz., value $60.00). This aloe juice-based cream is lightweight and designed for those with normal or sensitive skin, in particular those who may have perioral dermatitis, a condition that has inspired many of Sarah’s gentle formulations.

My skin tends toward dryness, especially in the dry winter months so this may be too lightweight for me to use right now. I can see this cream being a good fit for my face during the more humid summer months when my skin needs less added moisture. It might also be a smart choice for Eva, whose almost-teenaged skin could benefit from a lightweight, gentle moisturizer in winter.

Beauty Heroes-Osmia Organics black clay soap and exclusive pre-launch nectar vital rose drops face serum

Partnered with the face cream was a full-size bar of Black Clay Facial Soap (2.25 oz., value $24.00). You can read more about the soap and how it compares to traditional African Black Soap here. Beauty Heroes also included a small soap saver (value $2.00), which is the perfect accessory to protect any bar soap from being softened and prematurely melted away by residual water.

The final treasure tucked into the box was the bonus sidekick item. This extra-special sidekick was an exclusive launch to Beauty Heroes members; a small dropper bottle of the yet-to-be-released Nectar Vital Rose Drops Face Serum (value $10.00). As the product has not yet been made available to the public, I was unable to find much information about the ingredients or the product online. I can say that it smells divine. There is the distinct scent of roses, but based on fragrance alone I would venture to guess that other florals and non-floral botanicals play a role as well. The serum is fairly light and easily absorbed, leaving a silky feeling on the skin. I often add several drops of facial serums or oils to my moisturizer step to enrich my moisturizer, which is precisely how Osmia Organics suggests using this precious product.

Crunchy Parent Beauty Heroes non-toxic organic green beauty subscription unboxing & review Osmia OrganicsJan 2016 – Version 3

I continue to be impressed with the quality of natural, green brands and products that Beauty Heroes brings to its members each month. There has been such exciting growth in the green beauty industry, especially among small companies driven by knowledgeable, passionate, creative individuals and teams. I so appreciate the extent to which Beauty Heroes researches their brand partners and curates great boxes month-to-month that over time build a high-quality and effective natural beauty collection. The value of this month’s box was an incredible $96.00.

Historically, Beauty Heroes has focused on products for skin, body, and hair. With the new year, Beauty Heroes has announced some new expansion plans to include cosmetic items as well. Beauty Heroes will aim to focus on universally-flattering shades to complement all of their members. I’m excited to see what these changes will bring in the months ahead. What do you think about adding cosmetics to the Beauty Heroes boxes? If you want to be sure to be among the first to see how Beauty Heroes will bring Luxe green beauty cosmetics to their members, be sure to sign up.

If you would like to see my most recent listing of “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to Crunchy Parent and the Crunchy Parent YouTube channel!

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Haul Video: Vitacost Natural, Organic, Gluten-Free Food

*I purchased all of these items and receive no compensation from Vitacost for this post, although post may include affiliate links. What follows are my honest opinions*

If you read my post about Barganic Alerts you know that I am really passionate about making natural, green-living choices accessible to anyone who desires to make them. Throughout my evolution as a parent and as a person, one of my goals has been to seek out healthier foods, which for us includes prioritizing organic foods, avoiding GMOs, and respecting our gluten and dairy sensitivities. This can add a lot to our food cost bottom line, but it is well worth it to me; better health is priceless.

The desire to buy the best food that we can afford has moved me to research the resources available to us in our community and through the interwebs to stretch our dollars. There are a few online retailers that I have found who offer very competitive pricing on high-quality natural, organic, and food allergy-friendly food items. Vitacost is a retailer that I shop with often for supplements, personal and home care items, and nonperishable foods. Not only is the value very good, but they offer an extensive range of products that are not always available to me locally.

Recently I got an email from Vitacost promoting a 20% off all food and beverages sale. This was the motivation that I needed to place a big order. I also went through ebates and earned an additional 4% off of my purchase. You can see the complete haul video above.

There were a few items that I bought that were not included in the sale. Specifically, the raw, organic honey was actually part of a buy one, get one 50% off special, making it an even better deal. The Spry gum was not part of any additional sale beyond the regular Vitacost price, but we needed it and by piggybacking it onto this order, it shipped free.

In the video I talk about a few things that I wanted to link to to if you wished to learn more. First, I mentioned that I store my bulk grains in large food-grade plastic buckets with Gamma Seal lids. They provide an air-tight seal that keeps out moisture, critters, and prolongs freshness. They are a workout to get on the bucket at first, but after the initial set-up they are very easy to open and close. I love them.

I also mentioned a few recipes in the video that I make using some of the products that I ordered. These include my versatile gluten free flour mix, my favorite green smoothie, and my gluten free/dairy free banana bread with hemp seeds and chocolate chips.

I encourage you to do your own research to see how pricing compares to what is available near you. To give a sense of the prices during this deal, I have provided a sample of my purchase prices below. The promotion is no longer active, but Vitacost frequently offers various deals. You can sign up for their emails to be alerted of sales.

Prices are before tax and do not reflect the additional rebate received through ebates. For ease of comparison, I have converted pricing for “bulk” items into price per ounce or per pound as appropriate.

Lundberg Organic short grain brown rice $1.72/lb.
Arrowhead Mills organic brown rice flour: $1.52/lb.
Vitacost potato starch $1.60/lb.
Vitacost tapioca starch $1.60/lb.
Nutiva organic raw hemp seeds: $0.60/ounce
Glutino GF crackers: $2.74/box (4.4 oz.)
Ener-G GF pretzels: $2.39/bag (8 oz.)
Kinnikinnick GF graham crackers $3.29/box (8 oz.)

So what do you think, are these prices a good value for your area? If you want to give Vitacost a try, you can save $10 off your first purchase through this link. Do you have any healthy food resources to share?

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Barganic Alert! 20% off Cosmic Box

Crunchy Parent Barganic Alert! 20% off Cosmic Box-subscription box sale, coupon code

February is right around the corner, and Cosmic Box wants to share the love. They are offering 20% off your first month when you sign up for a subscription using the code COSMICLOVE. There are a few more days to sign up for the February box (which is almost sold out). Once those are gone subscriptions will start with the March box. Cosmic Box has also announced that beginning with the February box, they will now be including goodies to balance your chakras.

If you would like to see my prior reviews to get a sense of what Cosmic Box includes in their spirit-enchancing, cosmically positive subscription, you can check those out here.

Are you going to take advantage of this deal?

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